The Camelot Betrayal by Kiersten White
Delacorte Press, pb, £7.37
Reviewed by John C. Adams
Yet another Arthur and Guinevere story? Really?
Delacorte Press is an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, so my initial weary response to seeing that this book was a retelling the Arthurian legend was probably a little unfair. Children come to this much-loved fable that informs the British sense of identity afresh with every generation and are so often enthralled by it. Hence, a new book that tells the story for them is always to be welcomed.
My first impression was that the cover was incredibly beautiful and had been lovingly crafted by an artist of unique talent. Owning a physical book is still an act of love that depends in part on the cover artistry and the print and paper quality, as well as on the merits of the writing. All were excellent. Turning this book over in my hands, I felt a real affection for the physical item and absolutely understood just how much care had gone into making it.
White’s style was just right for the intended audience, which I interpreted as readers aged between approximately ten and fifteen. This was a story about a married couple experiencing tensions over a child from a previous relationship and over the tempting solace offered by another man. That’s pretty ageless in its way, but also something many children today understand only too well. White was careful to keep it age-appropriate, the emphasis being on feelings combined with just hints at the underlying physical relationships. This was well done and certainly essential for a romance pitched at children. It’s a safe read on that score. As a parent, that’s what I appreciated most about this book. It was written by a talented and experienced author who knew exactly what was right for this age group.
It felt good in principle to see that Guinevere was more fully rounded as a character than in earlier renditions of the Arthurian tales. However, for me, she was still presented as too passive a character. I like my heroines feisty and empowered, so for me, this Guinevere was almost painfully honest with herself about her insecurities. I yearned for her to believe in herself more, and there was certainly some development during the narrative, but too often, she defined herself in terms of what she was not.
‘The Camelot Betrayal’ was very well written. The tone and style were easy on the mind, and the story was well structured and paced. Arthurian legend fascinates kids, and there’s so much scope to produce novels for children that bring out their love of Camelot. Overall, this was a lovely book, pitched just right for its intended audience. I would absolutely recommend it as a gift or reading suggestion for older children.
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